THE NORTHERN BIG 5
The most popular safaris in Tanzania (and the least expensive) usually include several parks in the North of the country. Since you can fly into Kilimanjaro International Airport (situated between the towns of Arusha and Moshi) you can also avoid spending too much time in urban areas and get into the bush as quickly as possible.
Many safari goers these days are as interested in visiting local tribes as they are spending time in the "Big Five". Most safaris will include a visit to a Maasai village, school or an organized hunt with the local Hadzabe.
Best time to go on Safari in Northern Tanzania
The annual migration of millions of wildebeest and zebra is a truly remarkable wildlife show and worth planning for. The best time to witness the migration is probably February - March when the wildebeest and zebra have their young. Not only can you enjoy seeing baby animals, but the predators are at the highest number too. Because the herds also concentrate in the south of the Serengeti, it's easy to plan your wildlife viewing in that area.
The Northern Parks
The Northern parks include the Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Authority Area, Lake Manyara National Park, Tarangire National Park, Arusha National Park and Kilimanjaro National Park. The cradle of man kind (Olduvai Gorge) and the bushmen in Lake Eyasi are also located in the northern circuit. You can see more wildlife than you thought possible and enjoy several different parks with unique features. The Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area is where you can witness the incredible migration of millions of wildebeest and zebra - followed enthusiastically by their predators.
Northern Tanzania is home to several tribes most notably the Maasai and the Hadzabe.
The most developed of Tanzania’s tourism route is known as the Northern Circuit though it remains quite intact. This is the circuit where you can see huge herds of wildebeest, flocks of brilliant pink flamingos emerging from the swirling mists of alkaline lakes.
The Serengeti National Park
A million wildebeest... each one driven by the same ancient rhythm, fulfilling its instinctive role in the inescapable cycle of life: a frenzied three-week bout of territorial conquests and mating; survival of the fittest as 40km (25 mile) long columns plunge through crocodile infested waters on the annual exodus north; replenishing the species in a brief population explosion that produces more than 8,000 calves daily before the 1,000 km (600 mile) pilgrimage begins again. Park size: 14,763 sq km (5,700 sq miles).
Tanzania’s oldest and most popular national park, the Serengeti is famed for its annual migration, when some six million hooves pound the open plains, as more than 200,000 zebra and 300,000 Thomson’s gazelle join the wildebeest’s trek for fresh grazing. Yet even when the migration is quiet, the Serengeti offers arguably the most scintillating game-viewing in Africa: great herds of buffalo, smaller groups of elephant and giraffe, and thousands upon thousands of eland, topi, kongoni, impala and Grant’s gazelle.
Predator vs Prey
The spectacle of predator versus prey dominates Tanzania’s greatest park. Golden-maned lion prides feast on the abundance of plain grazers. Solitary leopards haunt the acacia trees lining the Seronera River, while a high density of cheetahs prowls the southeastern plains. Almost uniquely, all three African jackal species occur here, alongside the spotted hyena and a host of more elusive small predators, ranging from the insectivorous aardwolf to the beautiful serval cat.
But there is more to Serengeti than large mammals. Gaudy agama lizards and rock hyraxes scuffle around the surfaces of the park’s isolated granite koppies. A full 100 varieties of dung beetle have been recorded, as have 500-plus bird species, ranging from the outsized ostrich and bizarre secretary bird of the open grassland, to the black eagles that soar effortlessly above the Lobo Hills.
As enduring as the game-viewing is the liberating sense of space that characterizes the Serengeti Plains, stretching across sunburnt savannah to a shimmering golden horizon at the end of the earth. Yet, after the rains, this golden expanse of grass is transformed into an endless green carpet flecked with wildflowers. And there are also wooded hills and towering termite mounds, rivers lined with fig trees and acacia woodland stained orange by dust. Popular the Serengeti might be, but it remains so vast that you may be the only human audience when a pride of lions masterminds a siege, focused unswervingly on its next meal.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area
The Ngorongoro Conservation area borders the Serengeti in northern Tanzania and includes the world's largest crater which acts as a natural enclosure for almost every species of wildlife found in East Africa. This includes the very rare black rhino. The Ngorongoro Crater is where you'll witness some of the densest population of wildlife in the world and it's a truly amazing place for photographers. The Maasai still live within the conservation area, and it's also home to Olduvai where some of man's earliest remains have been found. There are several lodges and campsites in the Conservation area.